acknowledge your presence and you
simply do the same. The basic rule is,
“Do whatever the other party does.”
If you think that fee negotiations with
American meeting planners are dicey,
it’s more intense when dealing with people from “haggling” cultures, such as
Asia, India, the Middle East and Latin
America. People in the West do not tend
to negotiate very often and, as a result,
we’re not very good at it. In fact, Costco
recently started selling cars, and they
only have one rule . . . no haggling! Generally, Americans love the concept, but
you won’t see many people from negotiating countries buying their car from
Costco because, without negotiations,
they feel they are paying too much.
In today's global marketplace, it's
crucial to become a black-belt negotiator. People from negotiating cultures
haggle over everything all day long!
Keep in mind that it’s also a common
practice in many cultures to try to renegotiate after the contract has been
signed. My suggestion is to always save
something for the end. In other words,
if you normally include handouts or
books with your programs, don’t mention it until the renegotiation starts.
That way you have room to offer free
handouts or books if there is no more
Don’t lose Face Over Space
Speakers and trainers should take note
of some other cultural dif-
ferences. For example,
personal space varies
among cultures. In the
United States, we are
used to shaking hands
and then standing about two-and-a-half
feet apart when conversing. This is not
always comfortable for some people
from more formal countries, like Japan.
where they bow or shake hands and
then take a step back. Americans feel
uncomfortable communicating across a
distance that feels like the Grand
Canyon, so we step forward. But a
Japanese person will naturally step back
to re-establish a more comfortable dis-
tance. You can easily see how this could
result in “chasing” your customer all
over the office!
If you’ve ever had your personal
space invaded, you know how uncomfortable this can be. Yet, there are cultures that prefer to stand closer than
Americans find comfortable. Among
these cultures are Middle Easterners
and many Hispanics who will often
step forward to hug you, and then continue standing just inches away. This is
much too close for Americans, so we
naturally step back to a safer distance.
Of course, this is probably too far away
for the other party, so they naturally
step forward “into” our personal space.
If this continues, they will steadily back
you into a corner. Obviously, such spatial issues can make communication difficult or uncomfortable and it certainly
does not start out your relationship on
a very positive note.
an “I” for an eye
Americans also should be aware of the
Time Is More than Zones
amount of eye contact to expect from
people from diverse cultures. In the
United States, we
direct eye contact
with honesty and
respect. On the
other hand, many Asians and Native
Americans avoid direct eye contact as a
sign of respect for you. They feel that
looking someone in the eye is intrusive
and rude, so they look down to honor
you. Unfortunately, this is extremely
uncomfortable for people from this
country, so we do everything possible
to catch their eye, making them
extremely uncomfortable. Resist insist-
ing on meeting eye to eye! If they look
down, simply look down as well.
Here’s what international speaker,
Rebecca Morgan, CSP, says about her
biggest cultural challenge: “It is people
not getting back to me until the last
minute. It’s very frustrating.” This
brings up the fact that treatment of
time is not the same around the world.
In the United States, we are very time
conscious, often saying, “Time is
money.” In other countries, time is part
of the process of building relationships.
Consider that some of these cultures
have existed for thousands of years, so
you are not likely to change their practices. Relax, do your best to adjust, and
be as flexible as possible.
What’s in a Word?
Another difference Morgan cites is that,
in some cultures, they say “yes” when
they mean “maybe,” and “maybe”
when they mean “no.” In America, we
Lee speaking on a
cruise ship in India.